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Transgender; social issues; Family
- Surya and Ishaan become the first transgender couple in India to tie the knot in Kerala.
- Their marriage was registered under the Special Marriage Act.
- Hundreds of well wishers including members belonging to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) attended the wedding.
- Mahathir Mohamad, a 92 year old political veteran elected as the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
- This election can spur democratic movement in Southeast Asia, in which one party rule and military’s influence is dominant.
- The clear majority for the opposition Pakatan Harapan in the new federal legislature also signaled Mr Mohamed’s comeback.
Reasons for the loss of previous Prime Minister Najib Razak and his party United Malays National Organisation(UNMO):
- Poor economic track record
- Stringent curbs on media freedoms
- Last minute meddling with electoral constituencies
- Mr Razak’s involvement in a multimillion dollar embezzlement scandal in a sovereign wealth fund.
- Investigations in several countries regarding the scam damaged the country’s reputation as a regional tiger economy.
- Mr Mohamed forged an alliance with Anwar Ibrahim, an arch rival of Najib Razak.
- UNMO has been ousted from power for the first time.
- Mr Mohamed helped found UNMO and held power between 1981 and 2003.
- Mr Mohamed selected Najib Razak to be the Prime Minister in 2009.
- Mr Mohamed in his previous stints as Prime Minister was known for grandstanding on Asian values of collective well being over the West’s emphasis on individual rights.
- As the future Prime Minister Mr Mohamed has promised to uphold Rule of Law which will strike a chord across ASEAN.
- ASEAN considers lack of democratic accountability as a an obstacle to consolidating the gains from economic integration
- The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has submitted studies to the Ministry of External Affairs to extend rail connectivity to Bhutan
- Currently, there is no rail link between India and Bhutan
- Feasibility studies were carried out at five locations
The feasible rail links are:
- Kokhrajhar (Assam) to Gelephu (Bhutan)
- Pathsala (Assam) to Nanglam (Bhutan)
- Rangiya (Assam) to Samdrupjongkjar (Bhutan)
- Banarhat (West Bengal) to Samaste (Bhutan)
- Hasimara (West Bengal) to Phuentsholing (Bhutan)
- Extension of rail connectivity to Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar is part of India’s Act East policy to boost ties with South Asian neighbours through North Eastern region.
Iran nuclear deal; global politics
- Mr Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, a former Indian Ambassador to the United Nations opines that US pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal has little to do with the nuclear deal and more with the regime change in Tehran.
- Iran could stand in the way of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula according to Mr Gharekhan.
- Three important and powerful States Israel, saudi Arabia and US have a congruence of Interest with respect to Iran which is seldom seen in today’s times.
Discontent in Iran:
- Large scale demonstrations and protests by iranian people against the regime.
- Living conditions are difficult
- Inflation is high
- According to Democracy in Iran: Why it Failed and How it Might Succeed by American academic Misagh Parsa, discontent in Iran has manifested in many forms namely:
- Hundreds of Mosques do not have imams
- Attendance at Friday prayers has gone down
- Some are converting into Christianity
- Some are even converting to Bahaí faith, which is the largest non-Muslim community in Iran
- Misagh Parsa says that there might be a revolutionary upsurge in the future.
The timing of the US withdrawal from nuclear deal:
- Plans to tap into the present discontent of the people.
- Reimposition of severe sanctions would make life even more difficult for the people.
- People might take to the streets like in 1979 which led to the overthrow of the Shah’s regime.The Shah’s regime, similar to the present one, had strong military and oppressive secret services such as the Savak.
- Trump is unlikely to listen to the appeals of any other country or grant exemptions from sanctions to any country transacting with Iran.
- The Republicans are backing Trump. It is expected that the Democrats will eventually support Trump’s decision.
Maturity of Iran’s diplomacy:
- Iran has shown restraint in its actions.
- It did not declare the deal as dead but called other parties to renegotiate the deal.
- It did not announce the immediate resumption of uranium enrichment rather it said will be at industrial level.
- It has not so far called of International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) inspections.
Changes in Iran after the withdrawal:
- Hardliners have strengthened.
- Hassan Rouhani, the President, considered as a moderate, has taken a defiant stance.
Predictions by Gharekhan:
- Iranian people, proud of their Heritage, will stand behind their regime.
- If difficult conditions prevail, people will be compelled to take to the streets.
- Iran will support the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria even more vigorously. It will be joined by Russia and Hezbollah of Lebanon.
- The Houthi rebels in Yemen will feel emboldened to take on the Saudi-led coalition.
- Iran will more directly intervene in Iraq and making the already non existent peace effort in Afghanistan difficult.
- If the regime does not collapse, Washington-Jerusalem-Riyadh axis will look for alternatives to bring it down.
- India gave a well-drafted two sentence statement on Trump’s decision
- The first, striked a balance between Iran’s right to develop nuclear nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and the international community’s concern to ensure that its nuclear programme remains strictly peaceful
- The second, contained contained implicit disapproval of the American decision. It warned against strong military action.
- Trump is set out to reverse the major achievements of his predecessor like the Obamacare, North American Free Trade Agreement, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Paris Agreement and now JCPOA. This raises the concerns over USA’s commitment towards various deals.
- Energy imports from Iran will become difficult and expensive.
- The RBI might have to increase interest rates to contain inflation and step in to check the fall in rupee’s value.
- Any stringent action taken might hurt the popularity of the current government
- Gharekhan advices India to remain vigilant in dealing with the Trump administration and not be prudent to assume that withdrawing from the nuclear deal is a special case.
North Korea- US
- US President Donald Trump announced that US-North Korea Summit will be held on 12th June
- The summit will be held in Singapore
- Donald Trump will be the first sitting US President to meet with a North Korean leader
- The Supreme Court has reserved it verdict on petitions challenging Constitutional validity of AadhaarAct
- The petitions challenge:
- The constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act on the ground that it violates citizen’s right to privacy
- Aadhaar Project from 2009 to 2016
- Parts of the project which are not covered by the Aadhaar Act
- Government’s decision to force citizens compulsorily link their bank accounts, mobile phones with Aadhaar
- Move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits and subsidies.
Effects of Liberalisation; Indian Retail FDI, e-commerce
- Walmart is planning to buy a controlling stake of 77% in Flipkart, a home grown e-commerce company for a sum of $16 billion.
- Rivals of Walmart and their footprint in India:
- Amazon: Just behind Flipkart in the share of Indian e-commerce.
- China’s Alibaba: Invested in Paytm Mall.
Reaction of various stakeholders:
- Traditional retailers: Willingness to consider strategic alliances with online rivals.
- Walmart investors: Consider this as an expensive bet as the firm will lose $8bn after the deal is finalised.
- Local trade lobbies: Determined to resist the deal.
- Analyst: Wondering how Walmart will turn around Flipkart’s losses.
- Status of Online Retail in India: It is heavily dependant on “discounts peddling”. For example, Flipkart accumulated losses upto Rs 24,000 crore.
- Walmart has had a difficult past in India. For example:
- Entered India in 2007, but exited the joint venture with the Bharti group.
- Restricted its operation to cash and carry stores after stricter FDI norms in the Multibrand Retail.
- Walmart is facing competition from Amazon in the US which is expanding to brick and mortar plus retail model. This is the apt time for it to enter India’s business-to-consumer segment.
- Indian policymakers should see how the US firm will integrate Indian suppliers into it international operations.
- This sector’s debate of big vs small and local vs foreign debate should be kept aside. A truly level playing field is required where all can compete despite of such deals in the future.
Commercial disputes; Ease of doing Bussiness
India ranked lowest in the enforcing contracts” parameter of the In the ease of doing business rankings of the World Bank, so it is important to have speedy justice in commercial disputes.
- With rapid economic development and large inflows of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), commercial disputes have been on a rise.
- The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act, 2015 was enacted to address the issue of faster resolution of commercial disputes.
- Recently, India had ranked 100th among 190 countries in World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ Index
- To further improve India’s ranking in the ‘Ease of doing business’ index, Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment) Bill of 2018 has been introduced
- The bill has been approved by the Union Cabinet and is presently pending in the Parliament
- Aim of the Bill: To create a favourable environment for investors to establish and operate business in India
Proposals of the Bill:
- To lower the specified value of a commercial dispute to 3 Lakh from the present 1Crore. Therefore, commercial disputes of a reasonable value can be decided by commercial courts.
- Establishment of Commercial Courts at district Judge level for the territories over which respective High Courts have ordinary original civil jurisdiction, as in Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Himachal Pradesh
- Introduction of the Pre- Institution Mediation (PIM) Process in cases where no urgent, interim relief is contemplated in order to provide an opportunity to the parties to resolve the commercial disputes outside the ambit of the courts through the authorities constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987
- Insertion of a new Section 21A which will enable the Centre to make rules and procedure for PIM
Digital media; security
- Recently, Information and Broadcasting Minister highlighted the need for regulations in the digital media industry
- IB Minister of India inaugurated the 15th Asia Media Summit (AMS) 2018
- This is the first time the summit has been organised in India
- The summit is jointly organised by Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and public sector firm Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd (BECIL).
- The theme of the summit is “Telling our Stories- Asia and more”
- According to IB Minister, India is the fastest growing advertising market and is expected to reach 10.59 billion US dollars by the end of 2018
- Number of internet users is expected to reach 969 million y 2021
- Mobile spend is estimated to grow to 1.55 billion US dollars in 2018.
Environment; earths climate; Cambrian explosion
- A new study has analyzed tiny fossil shells to reveal clues about Earth’s climate over 500 million years ago.
- The discovery as a research paper has been published in the journal Science Advances
- Findings suggest that animal life on earth developed 500 million years ago when the planet was likely in a ‘greenhouse’ climate interval. The temperatures were too high for permanent polar ice sheets to form.
- This interval in time is known as the Cambrian explosion– A period in which most of the major animal groups sprung into existence
- Cambrian period: It is the earliest time division of Palaeozoic Era. It marked the time when most of the major groups of animals first appear in the fossil record.
- The findings suggest this period, had a climate similar to that in which the dinosaurs lived.
Scientists made the discovery after looking for clues in tiny fossil shells embedded in 510-515 million-year-old blocks of Shropshire limestone.
- Scientists had suspected that the Cambrian was a warm period in the Earth’s history, but proof was lacking until now.
- In the recent study, scientists used oxygen isotope ratios as proxy data to measure sea temperature from 500 million years ago. The study indicated very warm sea temperatures ranging above 20°C
- Findings also indicated a well-preserved shell chemistry of the fossils as they grew on the Cambrian sea floor
- According to a new research published in the journal Science, the chytrid fungus responsible for the decline of amphibian populations around the world may have originated in East Asia.
- The fungus causes a disease called chytridiomycosis, which attacks the animal’s skin
- In this study, researchers gathered pathogen samples from around the world and compared the genomes. The study revealed that the lineage of this fungus can be traced back to East Asia (Korea)
- Chytrid fungus was first reported in frogs in South America in 1997.
- The fungus has also been recorded in several frog species in Western Ghats. The first record was from Ponmudi Hills of South Kerala in 2011.
- In 2013, chytrid strain specific to Asia was recorded in three endemic and threatened species from Northern Western Ghats
- The study reveals that the range of the disease expanded greatly between 50 and 120 years ago, coinciding with the rapid expansion of global trade
- To ensure the survival of vulnerable species, the researchers highlighted the need to tighten biosecurity across borders, including a potential ban on trade in amphibians as pets